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Bible Commentaries
2 Corinthians 10

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

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Verse 1

2 Corinthians 10:1

10:1–18 Paul changes topics here to address his opponents in Corinth (chs. 10–13), offering an impassioned defense of his apostleship.

He begins by stating that God gave him his authority (v. 8). He encourages the Corinthians not to consider appearances (v. 7) and points out that he does not compare himself with others (v. 12). Paul then contrasts himself with those who commend themselves, pointing out that he only boasts in the Lord (vv. 12–18) - FSB

I, Paul, myself entreat you, --

by the meekness -- The humble and gentle attitude that expresses itself in patient endurance of unfair treatment. A meek person is not bitter or angry, and he does not seek revenge when wronged. See note on Matthew 5:5.

Greek culture did not usually regard meekness as a virtue (cf. the modern colloquial expression “wimp”). - IVPBBCNT

Greek thinkers (Socrates, Aristotle, Stoics) did not see meekness as a virtue. This reflects one of their criticisms of Paul. M. R. Vincent’s Word Studies, vol. 2, asserts that in the Septuagint that “meekness” (praus, 2 Corinthians 10:1), “meek” (tameinos, v. 1), and “poor” (penēs, 2 Corinthians 9:9) are used to translate the same Hebrew words. They contrast the rich and powerful vs. the lowly and down-trodden (p. 832).

‘Meekness’ is quiet submissiveness to God or man in circumstances likely to provoke indignation. Its opposite is ‘harshness,’ ‘the rod,’ as in 1 Corinthians 4:21. ‘Gentleness’ or ‘sweet reasonableness’ (Matthew Arnold) is the spirit of fairness, which makes allowances, and does not exact that summum jus which is often summa injuria. Trench, Synonyms, § xliii. - CBSC

and gentleness of Christ-- This is similar in meaning to meekness. When applied to someone in a position of authority it refers to leniency. Gentle people refuse to retaliate, even when it is in their power to do so (Philippians 4:5).

gentleness of Christ -- While Paul seeks to defend himself, he does not want to do so in an angry or indignant manner; rather, he seeks to emulate the humility and gentleness shown by Christ (2 Corinthians 8:9; Matthew 11:29; Luke 18:14; see Galatians 6:1

I who am humble when face to face with you, -- Paul sarcastically repeated another feature of the Corinthians’ accusation against him; sadly, they had mistaken his gentleness and meekness toward them for weakness. Further, they accused him of cowardice, of being bold only when writing to them from a safe distance (cf. v. 10). - MSB

but bold toward you when I am away! -- Of good courage, 2 Corinthians 7:16.

Paul wished to avoid a display of boldness on his forthcoming visit. Yet he was totally ready to exercise his apostolic authority, whatever the outcome, if the Corinthians did not reject his opponents and mend their ways (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:20-21; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Corinthians 4:21). - EBCNT

Verse 2

2 Corinthians 10:2

I beg of you [I ask[ -- The Greek term means to ask with urgency or to plead. Paul used a synoymn entreat in v. 1. (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Corinthians 12:8, 2 Corinthians 12:18; 2 Corinthians 13:11). He is urgently pleading with these believers to reevaluate what they have heard from the false teachers.

when I am present -- Paul was quite capable of bold, fearless confrontation (cf. Galatians 2:11). But seeking to spare the Corinthians (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:23), the apostle begged the rebellious minority not to force him to display his boldness by confronting them—something he would do, he warned, if necessary.

walked -- according to the flesh -- The element that causes trouble in the church. Probably an accusation of Paul’s enemies.

Verse 3

2 Corinthians 10:3

walk in the flesh -- Quiet a different turn from "walking according to the flesh" used in the previous verse.

Paul’s opponents at Corinth had wrongly accused him of walking in the flesh in a moral sense (cf. Romans 8:4). Playing off that, Paul affirmed that he did walk in the flesh in a physical sense; though possessing the power and authority of an apostle of Jesus Christ, he was a real human being (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:1) - MSB

do not wage war according to the flesh -- Paul uses spiritual weapons—such as the gospel, faith, truth, and prayer—to wage battle against his opposition (compare 2 Corinthians 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:10-17).

Paul did not fight the spiritual battle for men’s souls using human ingenuity, worldly wisdom, or clever methodologies (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 1 Corinthians 2:1-4). Such impotent weapons are powerless to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ. They cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel, such as those made by the false apostles at Corinth.

Verse 4

2 Corinthians 10:4

our warfare -- Paul has alluded to this spiritual warfare earlier in 2 Corinthians 6:7. The book of Romans was written from Corinth about this same time. He also mentions this warfare in Romans 6:13; Romans 13:12. Peter uses the verb form in 1 Peter 4:1, where he encourages believers to arm themselves in their fleshly struggles. - Utley

our warfare -- The motif of the Christian life as warfare is a common one in the NT (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:7).

flesh [carnal] -- Human. See note on 2 Corinthians 10:3.

"for the destruction of fortresses" --This may be an allusion to Proverbs 21:22 (larger context 2 Corinthians 10:13-18). There has been much discussion about the meaning of this phrase among commentators, but it is obvious that 2 Corinthians 10:5 is a description of what spiritual fortresses Paul is referring to. It appears he is addressing the false theology of the false teachers. - Utley

strongholds -- The metaphor would have been readily understandable to the Corinthians since Corinth, like most ancient cities, had a fortress (on top of a hill south of the city) in which its residents could take refuge.

The formidable spiritual strongholds manned by the forces of hell can be demolished only by spiritual weapons wielded by godly believers—singularly the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17) = MSB

Verse 5

2 Corinthians 10:5

arguments -- Thoughts, ideas, speculations, reasonings, philosophies, and false religions are the ideological forts in which men barricade themselves against God and the gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:20). - MSB

“Arguments” (NIV, NRSV, TEV) or “speculations” (NASB) ["pretension", "imaginaions" ASV] is a technical term for rhetorical or philosophical reasonings; the prisoners of war in this extended metaphor are human thoughts. Cf. Proverbs 21:22. - EBCNT

raised [that exalts itself] against the knowledge of God, -- True knowledge makes men humble. Where there is exaltation of self, there knowledge of God is wanting [BENGEL].

Everything which exalts itself is opposed to the knowledge of God, that which makes people think they do not need the provisions of the gospel and are not willing to submit to God’s plan for them.

bringing into captivity -- Free from dominion of the body. The mind under the influence of the gospel is to control the body.

every thought -- (παν A-ASN, G3956, every; νοημα N-ASN, G3540, thought)

The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, Harold K. Moulton, ed., lists several connotations (p. 280).

1. the mind, the understanding, intellect - 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4

2. the heart, soul, affections, feelings, disposition - 2 Corinthians 11:3

3. a conception of the mind, thought, purpose, device - 2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 10:5

The word “thought” (novhma, noçma) is only used six times in the NT, once in Philippians 4:7, and four other times in 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3). In every other case, it is translated “mind” by the NIV, except when referring to the “schemes” of Satan in 2 Corinthians 2:11. Outside the NT, it can mean “design” or “purpose.” So, we should not think that Paul means that Christ will overcome every random thought we have. Rather, he has in mind thoughts directed toward a purpose, a philosophy. Also, ultimately it is not just philosophies that become captive to Christ but the people attached to them. “Obedient to Christ” means to accept the gospel of Christ as true and to honor Christ as Lord. - CPNTNIV

1) Even our "thoughts" should be only of being obedient to the will of God.

2) "Thoughts" here are not our own, but of others, and used as referring to their "causes, philosophies, religions, conduct, etc." as being won over to that in harmony with with will of God. (2 Corinthians 2:11, used of the schemes, devices, "ways", strategy, plans of Satan.) - WG

Every power of thought in the pagan world; all the systems of philosophy and all forms of opinion among people; all the purposes of the soul; all the powers of reason, memory, judgment, fancy in an individual, were all to come under the laws of Christ, All doctrines were to be in accordance with his will; - BN,

...the weapons of our warfare are able to cast all that to the ground, and bring every thought (‘every conception’[1]), like a captive, into absolute obedience to what Christ demands in thought and action; - Schaff

bring into captivity -- Another military metaphor.

captive -- The verb is a compound of "spear" and "to capture in battle." All things "false" is captured by the "truth."

Verse 6

2 Corinthians 10:6

punish [avenge; revenge;] -- In the sense of "discipline". Paul would discipline (ex-communicate) the false teachers at Corinth when the church was strong enough to observe the process.

(CEV) "And when you completely obey him, we will punish anyone who refuses to obey."

(NLT) "And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient."

As a soldier of Christ, the apostle was also ready to punish all disobedience, when the Corinthians had shown their obedience first of all. He was not going to act against the false teachers at Corinth until he was, first, sure of the obedience of the believers in all things. - BBC

Paul is warning this church to deal with its problems before he arrives or else he will deal with them (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3-5). - Utley

Verse 7

2 Corinthians 10:7

You are looking -- The NKJV and ASV translate it as a question. The NASB, NRSV, NJB translate this as an imperative; the TEV, NIV, translate it as an indicative.

The church at Corinth was analyzing and criticizing on a fleshly/worldly/physical level instead of a gospel level. (Utley)

look … outward appearance -- The Greek verb “look” is better translated as an imperative, or command: “Look at what is obvious, face the facts, consider the evidence.” - MSB

Paul casts doubt on the criteria the Corinthians were using for judging him. They were impressed by externals (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:12), with “the surface of things”—the confident claim of being an authorized apostle, commendatory letters (2 Corinthians 3:1), an authoritarian manner (2co 11:20), spectacular visions (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1-7), rhetorical skills (2 Corinthians 11:6), and “pure” Jewishness (2 Corinthians 11:22). Paul argues that the right to make a subjective claim based on personal conviction cannot fairly be granted his opponents and yet denied him. (EBCNT)

according to appearance -- Some Corinthians continued to judge Paul and his ministry according to the standards of the time; they evaluated him according to his rhetoric, logic, and manner of reception by various communities.

If anyone is convinced … that he is Christ’s -- The false apostles’ claim to belong to Christ can be understood in 4 ways:

1) that they were Christians;

2) that they had known Jesus during His earthly life;

3) that they had an apostolic commission from Him; or

4) that they had an elevated, secret knowledge of Him.

Their claim that some or all of those things were true about themselves implies that they denied all of them to be true of Paul.

that just as he is Christ’s so also are we -- The false teachers were claiming spiritual authority and standing, but were denying Paul’s.

we are Christ’s -- For the sake of argument, Paul did not at this point deny the false apostles’ claims (as he did later in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). He merely pointed out that he, too, can and does claim to belong to Christ.

Verse 8

2 Corinthians 10:8

about our authority, which the Lord gave -- This refers to Paul’s Damascus Road experience (cf. Acts 9:15-16; Romans 1:5; Galatians 2:9). Paul emphasizes that his authority comes from God.

building you up Some Corinthians may have perceived that Paul used his authority to oppress or take advantage of them (2 Corinthians 12:17). Paul identifies the true purpose of his authority: to strengthen the faith of believers so they grow in maturity.

I will not be put to shame -- He defends himself to defend (1) the authority he had been given and (2) the gospel he preached.

I should not be ashamed -- Literally, I shall not be ashamed, or perhaps shamed, i.e. brought to shame. “Shall not be pointed out as a liar or a vain boaster.” - CBSC

Verse 9

2 Corinthians 10:9

I do not want to appear -- Paul’s wording here suggests that his opponents were accusing him of trying to frighten or intimidate the Corinthian believers with his letters.

terrify you by letters -- Paul’s enemies had accused him of being an abusive leader, of trying to intimidate the Corinthians in his letters (calling it a “severe letter,”).

Paul’s goal, however, was not to terrify the Corinthians, but to bring them to repentance (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10), because he loved them (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:2-3; 2 Corinthians 11:11; 2 Corinthians 12:15).

letters -- Some think Paul wrote other letters to the Corinthians in addition to 1 and 2nd Corinthians.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul refers to a previous letter where he instructed the Corinthians to not associate with immoral people (see 1 Corinthians 5:9 and note). In 2 Corinthians, he refers to another letter which he wrote out of distress and anguish (see 2 Corinthians 2:3).

Verse 10

2 Corinthians 10:10

For some say --They say” follows MSS B, called Vaticanus, the Latin Vulgate and the Peshitta (Syriac translation). Most other Greek manuscripts have “he,” which may refer to a ringleader of the false teachers (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:7, 2 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Corinthians 11:4).

For some say ... -- In their continuing attempt to discredit Paul, the false apostles claimed that in contrast to his bold, forceful letters, in person he lacked the presence, charisma, and personality of a truly great leader.

And in a culture that highly valued skillful rhetoric and eloquent oration, Paul’s “contemptible” speech was also taken as evidence that he was a weak, ineffective person.

in person he is unimpressive -- A second century tradition of Paul’s physical description comes from Thessalonica in a book called Paul and Thekla. It depict him as “a man of small height, almost bald, with crooked legs, but with a good body and eyebrows meeting. His nose was hooked, full of grace, for sometimes he appeared like a man and sometimes had the face of an angel.”

Paul was not a physically attractive man (cf. Galatians 4:14). Some of these physical characteristics may be related to his thorn in the flesh (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7), which I think was eye problems.

his speech is of no account -- According to the Corinthians’ standard, Paul was not an impressive orator. Paul may not have used any rhetorical techniques when he presented the gospel to the Corinthians; God’s power, not Paul’s speech, gave the message credibility.

Paul’s speech reflects insufficient rhetorical training to impress the powerful people of society. His (literally) “bodily presence” (KJV, NRSV) was also unimpressive, perhaps meaning that he did not dress as a good philosopher would, or (more likely) that he was awkward in gestures, an important element of delivery in public speaking that rhetoricians stressed. - IVPBBCNT

and his speech contemptible -- This is a strong Greek term (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:28; 1 Corinthians 6:4; 1 Corinthians 16:11; Romans 14:3, Romans 14:10). Paul was not a polished public speaker (Greek rhetorical style, cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 11:6).

Apollos (Acts 18:24) was the eloquent, rhetorically trained preacher from Alexandria. However, Paul claims that though he was unskilled in rhetorical style (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:6), his message and authority were from Christ.

Verse 11

2 Corinthians 10:11

Such people should realize -- Paul affirmes his integrity. What he was in his letters he was to be when present with them.

The false teacher(s) have accused Paul of having strong letters, but weak presentation. Paul asserts that the strength which they affirmed in his letters would be equaled by the strength of his personal presence if he had to come personally and set things straight himself!

our actions when we are present -- Not only did they ridicule his appearance, but they even charged him with cowardice, uttering loud threats when at a distance, but silent and meek when confronted.

Philosophers and Jewish teachers often contrasted words and deeds; deeds weighed more heavily. Even if Paul was an inferior speaker, his life backed up everything he said. - IVPBBCNT

Verse 12

2 Corinthians 10:12

classify or to compare -- The opponents in Corinth compared their skill and gifts to Paul’s but he asserts that such comparisons merely derive from people’s perspectives and are useless; his apostolic authority comes from God (Acts 9:15; 2 Corinthians 10:18).

commend themselves -- The Greek word G4921 here used has in the N.T. the sense of praise; but probably here the leading idea as in 2 Corinthians 3:1 is of recommending themselves.

but they measuring themselves -- The idea is that these men’s motives are centred in themselves. They judge themselves by their own standard and take advantage of other men’s labours.

Paul seems to hint (2 Corinthians 10:16), that they even boast of other men’s labours as their own, and give other men no credit for what they have done.

comparing themselves among themselves -- Paul pointed out the folly of the false apostles’ boasting. They invented false standards that they could meet, then proclaimed themselves superior for meeting them.

Verse 13

2 Corinthians 10:13

area of influence -- Galatians 2:7-8;

God has assigned --Paul considered the Corinthian church to be a part of his God-given ministry assignment him, 2 Corinthians 10:14. (Romans 1:5; Romans 11:13; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). He did not get involved in churches that other missionaries had planted (e.g., Romans 15:18-20).

God assigned to us -- cf. Acts 9:15; Acts 22:21; Acts 26:17-21; : Acts 21:19, Acts 22:21, Acts 26:17-20; Romans 1:5, Romans 1:13-15, Romans 11:13, Romans 15:15-21; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:7-8; Ephesians 3:7-8; Colossians 1:25-29; 1 Timothy 2:7; - TSK

Teachers of rhetoric and philosophy in cities throughout the Mediterranean competed for students and their fees. One means of self-advertisement was to compare oneself favorably to rival teachers; Paul uses the ancient literary device of irony and turns his opponents’ advertising on its head, refuting them while satirizing their very form of boasting. The language of a “sphere” (NASB) or “proper limits” (NIV) was sometimes applied to the extent of a public servant’s service in a district or region; Paul could also mean it in terms of the language of Roman imperial conquest (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6). - IVPBBCNT = THE IVP BIBLE BACKGROUND COMMENTARY NEW TESTAMENT, ed by Craig S. Keener

Verse 14

2 Corinthians 10:14

For we stretch not] [not overextending] -- The meaning is, For we are not straining ourselves beyond our due limits in claiming you as our charge, for it is an undeniable fact that we came (the tense is the simple past in the original and the word has the sense of anticipating others in coming) as far as you in our work of preaching the Gospel. Corinth was the farthest point the Apostle had yet reached. - CBSC

as far as you with the gospel -- Paul ministered in Corinth and established the church there during his second missionary journey (see Acts 18:1–16).

we were the first -- To Paul belonged the undisputed fact of having first introduced the gospel into the regions of Macedonia and Achaia.

we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ -- It was Paul who established the Corinthian church, yet the false teachers were trying to take credit (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:17).

the gospel -- The gospel (euangelion) refers to the new covenant brought about in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; see note on 2 Corinthians 3:3), which Paul defined in his previous letter in terms of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). His opponents were teaching a “different gospel” that distorted God’s Word (2 Corinthians 4:2; see 2 Corinthians 11:4 and note).

Verse 15

2 Corinthians 10:15

not boasting beyond our measure … in other men’s labors -- The false teachers were taking credit for the Corinthian church, which Paul established.

The Apostle now repeats what he has before said in v. 13, but directs his remarks more pointedly against the false teachers by adding ‘in other men’s labours.’

as your faith increases -- increases, or grows. Is Paul delicately impling that their lack of faith prevents the extension of his labours? He could not leave in his rear a fortress of false teachers opposing the gospel. The spread of the gospel depends on them.

to be enlarged greatly by you -- Since Paul viewed the Corinthian church as his letter of recommendation (see 2 Corinthians 3:1 and note, and 2 Corinthians 3:2), he hoped their growth would result in more opportunities for his ministry.

As their spiritual father (1 Corinthians 4:15), he hoped that the growth of their faith would result in the enlargement of his influence among them and the improvement of their estimation of him. Then and only then could he contemplate fulfilling his eager desire to visit the Christians at Rome (Acts 19:21; Romans 1:11; Romans 15:24) and to advance westward to Spain (Romans 15:24, Romans 15:28). EBCNT

Verse 16

2 Corinthians 10:16

beyond you -- When the crisis in Corinth had been resolved and the Corinthians’ faith strengthened, Paul would, with their help, expand his ministry into new areas.

Areas such as Rome (Acts 19:21) and Spain (Romans 15:24, Romans 15:28).

the regions that lie beyond you -- Paul hopes his ministry in Corinth will result in opportunities to preach the gospel further west. He wanted to visit Rome and Spain after traveling to Jerusalem to deliver the collection for the church there (8:1–9:15; see Romans 15:25-29).

Verse 17

2 Corinthians 10:17

boasts -- The thought of self-glory was repugnant to Paul; he boasted only in the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:31; see note on 2 Corinthians 10:13).

let him boast in the Lord A quotation of Jeremiah 9:24 (LXX) (quoted also in 1 Corinthians 1:31).

Jeremiah, in J 9:23-24 contrasts improper boasting (boasting of one’s own wisdom, strength, and riches) and proper boasting (boasting about understanding and knowing the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth). For Christians, only boasting “in the Lord” is legitimate—boasting about who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for them (Galatians 6:14) or through them (Romans 15:18; cf. Acts 14:27). (NIVBTSB)

Verse 18

2 Corinthians 10:18

whom the Lord commends. -- The real question that matters, is which faction, teacher, or theology does Jesus approve (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5).

Applying Jeremiah 9:24, Paul notes that self-commendation is obviously out of place.

commends -- G4921

approved -- G1384

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 10". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/2-corinthians-10.html. 2021.
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